Saturday, March 28, 2009

NOT PC’s blog digest, to 28 March

If you missed a few visits to NOT PC this last fortnight, here’s what readers visited most often these last fourteen or so days:

Enjoy!
Peter Cresswell

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Beer O’Clock: “You forgot the hops, bro.”

A couple of expat Australians living in Hawkes Bay have some friendly advice for NZ’s mainstream brewers:  You forgot the hops, bro.

Dear Brewers,

There are four ingredients in beer: water, malted barley, hops, and yeast.

Sure, some of you, especially the bigger operations, probably add a whole bunch of preservatives and other additives that I’d rather remain ignorant of, but basic beer brewing requires just those four things.

Water, malted barley, hops, and yeast.

Notice anything?

No? Then let me point it out to you.

HOPS.

Please use some.

Regards,
Fush ‘n’ Chups Admin

You’d think the friendly advice would be appreciated.  A “spokeswoman” from DB, however, took the bait.

"They can't be serious," she said. "We've got some of the best beer in the world."

DB, by the way, are the “brewers” of Tui.  That’s how “serious” they are.

So in honour of our Australian friends, tonight I’m drinking Coopers. 

How ‘bout you?

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Clever and creative billboard advertising

Billboards don't have to be as boring as National's blancmange offerings last year, as some of these examples demonstrate.

Miele vacuum cleaners, on a billboard near a flight school:

Kill Bill.  Crap film, inventive billboard:

Tide Detergent.  After a few weeks the background becomes progressively dirtier . . .

A "bright idea" for The Economist magazine:

Bic razors, in Spain:

Extra strong sellotape, in Malaysia:

Paint ad on a building in Columbus, Ohio:


Many more of these here. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Déjà voodoo

We’ve all had them, those déjà vu experiences where we’re sure we’ve been somewhere before.  New Scientist magazine writes on research that dismisses the mystical descriptions of these experiences as being due to “past lives” or “telepathy,” or the equally unlikely ideas that they’re due to confusion in the sensory signals in the brain, or else “some sort of distortion in time perception.”

The prosaic, though far more sensible, suggestion, is that it is nothing so much “as similarity between the configuration or layout of two scenes.”

Makes sense, you would have thought.   The human method of concept formation consists of identifying and integrating “concretes” based on their similarities, while omitting their particular details.  So in this sense, déjà vu would simply be an example of this cognitive process coming into our conscious awareness.

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Something to keep in mind during ‘Earth Hour’ [update 2]

A mainstream writer writes in the New Yorker magazine this month about "the environmental benefits of economic decline," insists that governments must "discourage people from sprawling across the face of the planet," and warns we all must learn "to accept policies that will seem to nudge us back toward the [economic] abyss."

This is a call for a return to an earlier era ruled by irrational fears and religious fervour. I refer of course to the appropriately named Dark Ages – a world in which people were not just discouraged from sprawling, but were positively shoved into the economic abyss.

Our writer, a Mr Owen, who writes for all the best magazines (Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Harper's, etc) would no doubt welcome such a rerun of history – for us, if not for him.

In any case, he seems blithely unaware that his colleagues in the world’s central banks have already been running such a programme, but he does rather tip the hand of the enthusiasts for so called renewable energy, and for their embrace of “reducing carbon emissions.”

If economic prosperity is “environmentally unfriendly,” then all the better for economic decline (those enthusiasts presumably think). If we are restricted to using energy that is untried, uneconomic, and unsuccessful at producing energy in the quantities that economic prosperity requires, then economic decline is certain.  If our industrial emissions are “capped,” then our arrival in the economic abyss is assured.

Keep this in mind during the nonsense of ‘Earth Hour’ this weekend, as you celebrate the fruits of the Industrial Revolution while all around you the luddites are huddling around candles -- that the goal of environmentalists is not prosperity, but its opposite: poverty.

UPDATE 1: Hilton Holder has a reminder about Earth Hour: Edison Hour: "On March 28, Celebrate technological achievement and Switch the Fucking Lights Back On Again"!

UPDATE 2: Tim Blair notices an "army of dim" is assembling:

Twitterers, bloggers, podcasters and Facebook users are getting behind Earth Hour in unprecedented numbers as event organisers embrace the explosion of interest in online social networking …
“People can really do whatever they want on the web,” [Earth Hour’s John Johnston] said. “We take the attitude that the more activity there is on the web and the more people there are talking positively about Earth Hour, the better it is.” 
Just as well none of that pointless dark-chatter requires electricity. . .
 Organisers of Human Achievement Hour – a sister event to the already-established Hour of Power – count among their supporters the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institution, WMATA, Target, George Washington University Hospital, Wal-Mart, the New York Times, and the United States Marine Corps. More about Human Achievement Hour here. Greens don’t like it.

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Fox House – Jim Fox

Jim Fox sketch

Simple architectural sketches can say a lot.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gordon Brown: “The devalued Prime Minister of a devalued Government” [update 2]

Watch Euro MP Daniel Hannan explain to Gordon Brown the way things really are.  As of today, this is the most popular video in Britain:

“Prime Minister, you cannot carry on for ever squeezing the productive bit of the economy in order to fund an unprecedented engorgement of the unproductive bit. You cannot spend your way out of recession or borrow your way out of debt. And when you repeat, in that wooden and perfunctory way, that our situation is better than others, that we’re ‘well-placed to weather the storm’, I have to tell you that you sound like a Brezhnev-era apparatchik giving the party line,” says Hannan, as Brown smirks.

UPDATE 1: No, of course you won't be seeing this tongue lashing on Campbell Live tonight.  No, of course you won't see Simon and the Petrie Dish dissecting (or even reporting on) Topolanek's statement.  Of course not.  Doesn't fit their "narrative."  As Butler Shafferl says:

In times as critical as these, when moral and economic analysis is so badly needed - such as one hears from the likes of Peter Schiff, Ron Paul, and Messrs. Topolanek and Hannan - how do we see the mainstream media responding to this criticism at the EU? On CNN's "Situation Room", one of that network's foreign correspondents, Richard Quest, could do no more than smirk and giggle at such comments. I suspect that, like other members of the lapdog media, the CNN people will fail to understand why the MSM is rapidly collapsing into a black hole.
UPDATE 2:  The Fairfacts Media Show has followed reaction to the speech going "viral," including a great interview with Hannan and Glenn Beck.  And he has this great quote from Hannan hmself, commenting on the tidal wave of reaction:
    Breaking the press monopoly is one thing. But the internet has also broken the political monopoly. Ten or even five years ago, when the Minister for Widgets put out a press release, the mere fact of his position guaranteed a measure of coverage. Nowadays, a politician must compel attention by virtue of what he is saying, not his position.
    It's all a bit unsettling for professional journalists and politicians. But it's good news for libertarians of every stripe. Lefties have always relied on control, as much of information as of physical resources. Such control is no longer technically feasible.

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Obama’s “Road to Hell” mistranslated, says Czech blogger [updated]

obama_newman Reports in Google News and The New York Times that Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek described the ObamaMessiah’s “rescue” plan as a “road to hell,” in a speech to the Strasbourg parliament, are inaccurate, says Czech blogger and Free Radical writer Luboš Motl:

    If you're an open-minded reader who is actually interested in reality, you should know that Mr Topolánek probably didn't say that the policies were a "road to hell." I guess that at least in the private context, he may have said that the combination of the stimuli and the protectionist & "Buy American" policies (and their declared "permanency"!) repeat the mistakes of the 1930s and are a "road to the asshole" ("cesta do prdele") or "a way to the crapper" ("cesta do hajzlu"). And he's damn right! :-)
    This is what I could predict based on my extended linguistic knowledge of the prime minister's opinions and colorful vocabulary. :-) Incidentally, Barroso's EU Commission seems to agree with Topolánek. . .

Luboš has a video clip of the comments at his site (along with the “mistranslation”). He also puts into context the kerfuffle over the “no confidence” crisis in the Czech parliament that Obama friendly media are talking up.

    Today, the foreign media have written a lot about the "political crisis" in the Czech Republic. Well, there's no "crisis."
    The government just failed in a no-confidence vote which is a standard … situation described in the constitution. The constitution is being followed literally and [President Václav Klaus], seems pretty happy about the no-confidence vote. . .
    [Klaus]will accept Topolánek's resignation tomorrow and he will have the right and the pleasure to choose a new prime minister who will try to pass another confidence vote in the Parliament. That's a standard sequence of events that is not surprising in our political system in any sense. Also, it is completely unrelated to the current global economic havoc, despite loads of stupid or downright dishonest journalists who suggest otherwise . . .

And that’s the memo direct from the Czech Republic, without the deluded intermediary of the NY Times.

UPDATE:  Oops.  Says Luboš in clarification:

“No! I was joking about the slang language. That's what our PM uses in different contexts but in the EU speech, he surely said "hell". Sorry to disappoint you by his being very diplomatic and moderate in this case.”

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Shop owner cleared . . . but to police he’s still a criminal

My congratulations this morning to stabbed shop owner Virender Singh, who fought back against intruders into his shop only to have to fight back against police who charged him for having the temerity to defend himself.

Just as they did when Greg Carvell defended himself and the occupants of his family’s gun shop.

Just as they did when Paul McIntyre defended his property and his family.

Just as they did when Michael Vaimauga was arrested for assault after he stopped a burglar breaking into a shop.

And just as they would have if the late Navtej Singh had managed to fight back successfully against the armed intruders into his bottle store.

As an Avondale dairy owner said when a colleague was stabbed in the neck and back by a robber, “When we protect ourselves, we get charged - and if we don’t we get stabbed. What do we do?”

So my congratulations to Mr Singh not just for being cleared in a depositions hearing at the Manukau District Court, but for having the gumption to defend himself and his young nephew when the police have already made it perfectly clear they view anyone who does as a criminal .

Make no mistake, Virender Singh’s exculpation yesterday by Manukau JPs was not a ringing declaration of your right to self defence – despite the Crimes Act allowing it, and basic human rights demanding it. No, his case was not dismissed based his right to self defence, but only because there was insufficient evidence to charge him.

And it was backed up by hand wringing Retailers Association president John Albertson who simpered “he would be concerned if retailers started arming themselves” – which is to say, he’d be happier if it were only their robbers who were armed – and from Singh’s own lawyer who said that this was “not a licence for shop owners to take unwarranted retribution in the course of their business” – indicating that even he has no conception of the fundamental distinction between one who initiates force, and one who defends against it.

So what do you think about his chances of an apology from the police?

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NOT PJ: Wogs, Wops, and Chinks Need Not Apply [updated]

This week Bernard Darnton investigates whether or not human rights apply to darkies.

BernardDarnton Wogs, wops, and chinks need not apply. And neither need bearers of other racial epithets. And if they have already applied, got the job, and worked hard, then they can jolly well go back to their own countries and stop stealing jobs from not-so-hard-working New Zealanders.

The Department of Labour is investigating “concerns” that a number of migrant workers were retained by a Christchurch company that has just made some New Zealanders redundant. Perhaps the Department’s time would be better spent investigating whether badgering companies to retain more expensive or less skilled staff is likely to make the recession better or worse.

Union secretary Phil Yarrall went whining to the Department of Labour asking for the migrant workers’ work permits to be revoked. He might like to explain how solidarity with the brotherhood of man is furthered by firing workers because of their ethnicity. Perhaps he should swap his job at the Manufacturing and Construction Workers Union for a nice spot on the board of the Ku Klux Klan.

There’s a disturbing degree of nationalism creeping into advertising too. Kiwibank has been at it since its inception, hence the name. Its advertising is based around the fact that they aren’t all nasty and foreign like those – horrors – Australian banks. Market research shows that this campaign has been wildly popular. Which just goes to show that there are a lot of fuckwits out there.

Air New Zealand is advertising that they’re “truly Kiwi” because they fly to Gisborne and Timaru unlike those Aussie-owned airlines, who are not from round here and are therefore crap.

What is it with government-owned companies and economic nationalism? State sponsored slagging-off of foreigners has been tried before and it ended up no fun for anyone. Thank God that New Zealand First was killed off at the last election. Now isn’t the time for a foreigner-hating Foreign Minister. Actually it’s never the time for a foreigner-hating Foreign Minister, and fortunately only 4.5% of the population disagrees with me.

Speaking of idiots who get het up about airport sales, last year a Canadian pension fund was prevented from investing in Auckland Airport because it’s a “strategic asset.” As if they were going to sneak over one night, stick the runway in a suitcase, and take it back to Toronto.

You get the same sort of economic nonsense from the Green Party – witness the now thankfully defunct Buy New Zealand Made campaign. American mega-corps with their refined-this and their detransfatulated-that are out to poison us. Chinese manufacturers of milk, sweets, canned strawberries, lead-painted Thomas the Tank Engine characters – pretty much anything in fact – are also out to poison us – and our children, the heartless bastards. Only good old New Zealand businesses (except those run by businessmen) are safe.

Not that economic nonsense from the Greens is a surprise; it’s just that you’d think a crowd of hippies would be a bit nicer and not get so down on our comrades of exotic extraction. But it turns out that foreign trees don’t deserve a hug.

If I were an employer (which I thankfully am not – I would rather be waterboarded with filthy foreign melamine-tainted milk) the absolute last person I would employ would be some whiny ignoramus who thought that his best qualification for a job was an accident of birth rather than, say, talent.

* * Bernard Darnton writes every Thursday at NOT PC * *

UPDATEMatt Nolan follows up.  So does Eric Crampton.

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Dale and Margo Seymour Residence – Bart Prince

seymour_int

seymour_ext The Dale and Margo Seymour Residence, Los Altos, California 1981-1982, designed by Bart Prince – student of Bruce Goff.  Prince’s site describes the house:

An existing residence had been on this site for nearly 50 years when the Seymours first bought it. After living there for several years they began to notice that with each temblor or minor earthquake, a portion of the house was moving down the hill. When they contacted me they were interested in saving as much of the house as was structurally sound and replace the rest with new living areas, kitchen and master bedroom suite. The site is covered with mature trees which were carefully retained as a part of the final design. The large curving glu-laminated wood beams work in conjunction with the vertical and diagonal steel structure to create a large interior volume within which are suspended the various living area.

It’s one of those houses where so much of the architecture is in the section.seymour-section

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Clark UN [updated]

Reports suggest that later today Helen Clark will be confirmed in her United Nations sinecure [hat tip Motella]

Cometh the departure, cometh the by-election.

UPDATE: First out of the blocks saying good riddance is Whale Oil.  Helen and the UN will make a good match, he says, since they're both venal and corrupt.  

"Clark is a natural for that sort of work," says Idiot/Savant, in a slightly different sense.

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New blog

New blog, but not a new blogger: Fairfacts Media has flown the  No Minister coop, and now has a blog all of his own called (no surprises here) The Fairfacts Media Show.  Check it out.

Are *you* taking free speech for granted? [update 2]

We in the West take free speech for granted.  Well, many of you do.  It’s a more rare and precious thing than many people realise.

  • In Iran, a blogger on traditional Persian music and culture, Omidreza Mirsayafi, has just died in prison – jailed for speech that “insulted” the regime.  Killed for a lack of free speech.  Don Watkins has the story.
  • In Malaysia, popular blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK) was locked up for in a high security prison for “postings in the Malaysia Today blogsite were prejudicial to the security of the country.” Unrepentant after his release due to public pressure, he has now been charged again under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act (ISA) “in connection with articles posted on his Malaysia Today blog” and faces the possibility of being imprisoned again.   “If I have to lose my freedom so be it. That is the price we pay for opposing the powers-that-be,” says RPK.  “But I shall not go quietly or make any deals to secure my release with those who walk in the corridors of power.  (Oh, and the Malaysian government has banned two opposition party newspapers for three months.)
  • In Morocco, blogger Hassan Barhoum was jailed for circulating a petition accusing a local prosecutor of corruption.
  • In Burma, young blogger Nay Phone Latt was imprisoned for twenty years after publishing a cartoon of junta leader General Than Shwe, and “possession of a film regarded as subversive by the military government,” and a poet was sentenced to two years for Saw Wai, was sentenced to two years in prison for a poem containing a coded criticism of Than She.  (Reporters Without Borders have a petition calling or Nay Phone Latt’s release.)
  • In Syria, cyber-dissident Habib Saleh is jailed for three years for criticising the government in online articles, his third conviction in seven years. He was convicted under article 285 of the criminal code of “weakening national sentiment.”  Reports RSF: “Five cyber-dissidents are currently detained in Syria because of what they posted online. Seven young activists have also been held in Saydnaya prison for nearly three years for creating an online discussion group and posting articles. They include Omar Abdallah, the son of Syrian journalist Ali Abdallah, who was held for six months in 2006 for criticising the government, above all in an article describing the Syrian economy as ‘weak’.”
  • In South Korea, blogger Park Dae Sung faces a five-year sentence for blog posts that “affected foreign exchange markets and the nation’s credibility.”

Free speech is a more rare and precious thing than we sometimes imagine – even in the West.  Says Don Watkins:

   During the Danish cartoon crisis, our leaders did not champion our right to speak freely–they criticized those who “offended Islam.” Years earlier, during the attempt to silence Salman Rushdie, our leaders did not denounce Iranian intimidation and assure Americans that our right to free speech would be protected–they issued meek and empty protests while bookstores were firebombed. That’s to say nothing of the countless other restrictions on free speech we tolerate (or champion), such as limits on political speech through campaign finance laws.
    So how do we stop taking free speech for granted? By learning
what it is, why it is important, and then defending it unwaveringly.

UPDATE 1:  Why do authoritarians hate free speech?  Because ideas have power.

Graphic novelist Bosch Fawstin is using the power of free speech against Islamofascism in his new book ProPiganda: Drawing the Line Against Jihad [hat tip SOLO].  Says Bosch at 'Big Hollywood':

page-34-for-bh-231x300     Though I was born into a Muslim family, I became interested in Islam only after 9/11/01 when 19 Muslims murdered 2,996 human beings in the name of Islam. Those who always gave a damn for the truth did their homework and found out first hand what Islam really meant before they said one word about it. But then there were the politicians and the ideologues. Even before the smoke cleared, Western politicians and intellectuals who knew nothing about Islam could not wait to exonerate it by uttering the anti-reality check of our time: “Islam means peace” . . .
    In a world where men fly planes into towers and are celebrated as heroes by the vile culture that breeds them, we need a new kind of hero that symbolizes our battle against such evil. An icon against jihad who does the right thing no matter how bad it looks, and who brings an unprecedented ruthlessness to the enemy. A hero who is a great villain to all those who had a good day on 9/11/01.
    Ready or not, here comes Pigman.

For those who don't know, Pigman's suit is made in part with pigskin leather, exploiting the enemy's pigotry.

UPDATE 2: Another one from the Fighting Back files is this report from Roar Prawn:

Brave and dogged blighters in Tibet are finding their painstaking way around China’s overbearing internet firewall making contact with their Mandarin speaking brethren, person by person, using chat channels. In the face of China’s massive population it’s a staggeringly Sisyphean task, but one that has to be admired.

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Lessons in govt meddling [updated]

Phil Goff is upset about the current government not renewing the terms of several Labour appointed member of broads of state-controlled companies, but as Paul Walker points out, “the problem seems to me to be that governments make these appointments in the first place.”

    Here's a simple answer to the problem of government appointments to state boards: privatise the companies. That way there will be no appointments for governments to make and the whole problem will go away.

Simple enough, eh?

GeithhnerAndMessiah It’s a point Timothy Geithner and his boss might like to get their heads around.  Specifically, if you don’t like the idea of AIG executives taking bonuses after being bailed out to the tune of US$180 billion, then don’t go bailing out private companies.  That way there’s be no huge bonuses paid out of taxpayers’ money, and the whole problem will go away.

Simple really, eh.

And if you don’t like the “scale of risk taking” taken on by companies like AIG, Mr Geithner, then give some thought to the moral hazard created when the government and all its agencies backstops private risk (as they’ve been doing) and then rewards all the risk-taking when the risk-takers have overdone it.  That way private companies will know in advance that they and they alone are responsible for the risks they choose to take.

Simple, huh.

And if you fail to heed these lessons, then don’t use the results of your meddling as an excuse to seize private companies, which is exactly what you now want the power to do.

In fact, if there’s a lesson in all of this –- one you, Mr Geithner, are undoubtedly already too morally impugned to grasp – it’s one that the rapidly increasing number of Ayn Rand readers are slowly realising:

    “If the critics of capitalism had bothered to read Ayn Rand, they would know that their attacks are part of a historical trend of blaming capitalism for the sins of government intervention--a trend that needs to stop if we are to prevent further economic damage.
   
“In The Voice of Reason, Rand wrote: ‘One of the methods used by statists to destroy capitalism consists in establishing controls that tie a given industry hand and foot, making it unable to solve its problems, then declaring that freedom has failed and stronger controls are necessary.’
   
“Is this not exactly what is happening?
   
“In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, she wrote: ‘If a detailed, factual study were made of all those instances in the history of American industry which have been used by the statists as an indictment of free enterprise and as an argument in favor of a government-controlled economy, it would be found that the actions blamed on businessmen were caused, necessitated, and made possible only by government intervention in business. The evils, popularly ascribed to big industrialists, were not the result of an unregulated industry, but of government power over industry. The villain in the picture was not the businessman, but the legislator, not free enterprise, but government controls.’”

UPDATE:  More news on the “rapidly increasing number of Ayn Rand readers” from James Valliant:

Atlas Shrugged is now #19 in all books at Amazon.
#1 in Books > Lit. & Fict. > Contemporary,
#1 in Books > Lit. & Fict. > General > Classics,
#1 in Books > Lit. & Fict. > World Lit,
#1 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Classics > United States,
#1 Authors, A-Z , and
#1 General > Classics.

Looks like the more that American Government destroys capitalism, the more people are desperate to learn about it.

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Cartoon for the day

ATT00150

Get ye to Sydney

Oops, I’ve been meaning to promote this for some weeks.  David Farrar reminded me
cis Sounds good.  Be warned however that past attendees have tended to become activists in big government parties, which is hardly the point I would have thought.

Richardson House – Peter Muller (1955)

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Designed for a harbour frontage at Sydney’s Palm Beach, and built in 1957.

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Muller-Richardson002 Muller-Richardson005 See more of Muller’s work at his website: PeterMuller.Org.

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Muller-Richardson006 .

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Vitamin Lab [updated]

Vitamins R-Us

Our favourite rational commentator on Natural Remedies That Work, Dr Shaun Holt, has a new venture that buyers of vitamins, pills and potions should take note of called The Vitamin Lab -- a slick website-based store through which you can access the scientific research on vitamins and other natural supplements, and then have your selected pills and potions simply and painlessly made up while you’re reading the research.

He calls it “the intelligent way to get your supplements,” and in fact it’s even easier than I’ve made it sound.  (And cheaper too than your regular supplier.)

With The Vitamin Lab you can get vitamins and supplements delivered to your door, the big difference being that all the supplements available from The Vitamin Lab have good scientific evidence that they work, and you can see this research for yourself on the website. The website shows you which supplements work for different medical conditions, or for just keeping healthy.

image001Check it out: The Vitamin Lab.

And if you’re buying and you type LIBZ into the Code Box (like Shaun’s done there on the right)then the Vitamin Lab will donate $5 from every 30-day order to Libertarianz.

See, not just a bargain, not just good for you, but principled too.  ;^)

UPDATE: National Business Review gives the concept and the business idea the once over.  And just who, I wonder is this elusive “as yet unnamed Kiwi” who’s partnering up to launch the website concept in the UK, US, Canada and South Africa?  Methinks we should be told.

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Top 20 dumbest holidaymakers

elephant1_1367620i There are some travellers so dumb that … well, here’s the top twenty most ridiculous complaints made by British holiday-makers to their travel agents, starting with the “tourist at a top African game lodge overlooking a waterhole, who spotted a visibly aroused elephant, complained that the sight of this rampant beast ruined his honeymoon by making him feel ‘inadequate’."

Clearly a British tourist, eh.  ;^)

LIBERTARIAN SUS: Giving it some verbal [updated]

In place of Sus’s regular column this week, we’ve got her two ZB radio appearances for you.

First, here’s her rant on Leighton Smith's programme last Fri morning, when she was forced to pick up the phone to assail the public on John Boscawen's private member's bill to overturn the anti-smacking legislation: Listen here [Sus starts about 15:30].

I’ll let you find out which side she took.

The second was by invitation, appearing on Murray Deaker’s Sunday show arranged an 'interview' on his Sunday show to discuss NZ Golf Open promoter Bob Tuohy’s call for taxpayers help him promote his tournament.

I hardly need to tell you which side she took, but listen here anyway for the way in which she said it: Listen here. Delightful.  [Sus starts about13:30 in, which includes the intro].

* * Susan Ryder appears here every week at NOT PC, in some form or another * *

UPDATE:  Susie mentions an article by NZ tennis ace Chris Lewis – former Wimbledon finalist, and coach to Ivan Lendl and, more recently, Marina Erakovic – an article on the very subject under discussion: taxpayers bailing out impecunious sportsmen and their promoters.

Two anniversaries: Three Mile Island, and the end of money growth data [update 2]

A couple of interesting yet unsung anniversaries this week, both of which are shrouded in much misinformation.

Ouch IT’S JUST THREE YEARS this week since the US Federal Reserve stopped printing the figures showing the growth of the M3 money supply – the “broadest measure” of three standards of measurement.  One can only guess at their motivation…. as Jerry Robinson subtly points out

    it took from 1776 to 1983 to grow the M3 money supply by $2.5 trillion. But the supply increased by $2.5 trillion in the next 14 years. And then from 1997 to 2001 – only four years – it increased by that amount again.
    "While the Federal Reserve has become less transparent in its actions than ever, we do know that right now, the printing presses are rolling and that the Federal Reserve is injecting massive amounts of currency into the U.S. economy” . . .
    The Fed last week took consolation in a slight stock market rise in answer to its announcement about injecting [a further] $1.2 trillion more into the system. However, Robinson points out that rising stock prices don't actually mean increased wealth for those invested in those companies – simply because the dollar is not worth what it was before the infusion of capital into the system.

Fortunately, a few places are trying to take up the slack in reporting the growth in the broad money supply, among them the Mises Institute (though with a significant time lag).

Not incidentally, the growth in M1 money supply – which, for the moment, is still being reported -- is frightening (see above).  That line at the right heading up the page vertically within the greyed ‘recession bar’?  That’s before the recent injections.

250px-Three_Mile_Island_(color)-2 THIS WEEK IS ALSO  the anniversary of the partial meltdown at the American Three Mile Island nuclear power station, the worst civilian nuclear accident in US history, which happened thirty years ago on March 28. 

The very worst accident in the history of nuclear power, Chernobyl, killed 56 people and made 20 square miles of land uninhabitable.   But the Chernobyl accident happened with a Soviet-style RBMK reactor, which had no containment shell and a unique Soviet-only design that ensured that as the reactor got hotter the rate of the nuclear reaction increased - the reverse of what happens in Western reactors. 

By contrast, in the Third Mile Island accident, no one died, and the plant still produces power today.

Nonetheless, the anti-industrialists seized immediately on the accident at Three Mile, and the nuclear industry never truly recovered.  Wikipedia reports (with citations, it should be noted) “The incident was largely publicized. The China Syndrome, a movie about a nuclear meltdown, released just 12 days before the disaster, became a blockbuster hit. Economists and authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt claim [with tongues only slightly in their cheeks] claim that the film stoked a widespread panic and blame the end of the nuclear power era on Jane Fonda.”

UPDATE 1: Iain Murray commemorates the anniversary with a more rational reflection on nuclear safety, the nuclear era and the current state of play viz nuclear power: Nuclear Power? Yes Please.

UPDATE 2: On a related note,

    Japan is the only country to have been attacked by atom bombs. The U.S. dropped one on Hiroshima, and one on Nagasaki.
    And Tsutomu Yamaguchi, 93, is the only human known to have survived both atomic attacks.

Says John Enright in wonderment, “Not only did he survive, he's still freaking alive”!

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Thredbo Ski Lodge – Peter Muller (1958)

Muller-Thredbo-1Muller-Thredbo-2 

Ski lodge for the Thredbo ski resort in Victoria, Australia, by Australian architect Peter Muller. The snow integrates architecture and landscape, as intended.

Check out more of his work at his website [hat tip Architetti Organici ].

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Olly wants us to keep consuming the seed corn

Paul Walker takes the Standard’s authors to task for their economic understanding, which as he describes goes from woeful to ‘wisible’ – although, unlike Paul, I suspect their understanding (or lack thereof) is more to do with too much university-based economics raining rather than too little.

Olly_7865_259 But such woefulness isn’t confined to the blogosphere.  Take dear old Olly Newland in yesterday’s Herald, in which he berates financial commentators who “regurgitate the hoary old theory that buying houses is ‘unproductive’ and [insist] instead we should be creating jobs and wealth by means other than investing in property.  Yet investing in property,” says Olly, “is one of the most productive enterprises in which a nation can engage… [Property] ownership automatically creates wealth by creating employment.”

Oh dear.  Apparently Mr Newland hasn’t been reading the papers for a year or two.  If what he says were true, then the United States should now “automatically” be wallowing in prosperity, since at the peak of America’s Greenspan-fuelled housing bubble some commentators suggest around forty percent of American employment – pretty much all the employment growth since 2001 -- was real-estate related.

What America and the world is now waking up to is that this was not at all productive.

Sure, Greenspan’s bubble “created employment,” for a while, but it did so by deluding home-owners that they had an increase in real wealth (i.e., in the goods and services that money income can buy) instead of just an increase in monetary value,  (a distinction first pointed out nearly two centuries ago by David Ricardo) encouraging them to consume their capital by using their houses like an ATM machine.  One could just as easily (and just as destructively) have “created employment” by paying people to fan out across the country and consume a nation’s seed corn.

Because that’s essentially what those employees were doing.

Let’s look at a basic distinction which Mr Newland seems to have missed.  The difference between a consumer good and an investment good (or a capital good, if you like) is a fairly simple one.  Capital is “wealth reproductively employed” – physical assets used in the self-sustaining production of more wealth.  Capital goods (or investment goods, which amounts to the same thing) produce from their own deployment the funds whereby to replace them, with (hopefully) a profit on top.  That’s how a country, year on year, builds a capital structure.

Consumer goods, by contrast, don’t pay for themselves out of their own production. Their replacement cost needs to be funded out of something else – in the case of too many so called “investment” properties it might have been your fifty-hour a week job (which is how so many NZers were trying to pay off their “investment property”). 

By this standard then, only some residential property constitutes a genuinely productive enterprise (that is, those that return more income than they consume) but most of it is no more an “investment” than any other durable good , like a fridge or a car or a spa pool. The primary reason people think property is different is because central-bank fuelled housing bubbles inflate the monetary value of houses, without inflating by quite so much the prices of these other durable consumer goods. 

But this isn’t an increase in real wealth, just an increase in monetary value.

Sure, some people for some years who bought “investment properties” on the basis of an expected “capital gain” did well – if they sold before the bubble popped.  But their gain wasn’t based on real productivity, it was based instead on a transfer of real wealth from production into consumption. It was based on the consumption of real capital – a consumption we’re all now paying for.

A shame Mr Newland doesn’t seem to realise that.

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Welfare reform in a recession: More urgent, not less

Two good pieces at Muriel Newman’s NZCPR site this morning, including the welcome news that she’s discovered Ayn Rand,

A High Priority Promise
23 March 2009
Muriel Newman
nl211011 In the seventies, the famous writer and philosopher Ayn Rand described the pervasive danger of the welfare state… She could have been writing about New Zealand today. Driven by power-seeking politicians, the welfare safety net has been manipulated over the years to the point where instead of alleviating hardship, it is creating unimaginable harm to some recipients, and widespread damage to society and the economy as a whole.... More >>>

Welfare Reform in a Recession
22 March 2009
Lindsay Mitchell
LM2 During a recent radio interview I was asked, is this a bad time to be talking about reforming welfare? No, I replied with little hesitation. There is no bad time to be trying to reform welfare… If increasing resources are going to be needed for unemployed people [however], an effort to reduce dependency on other benefits is doubly urgent... More>>>

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New blogs

Two new blogs added to the blogroll over the weekend that you might like to check out:

  • Micky's Muses...from the Antipodes
    TAGLINE: “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsiblity to bring that about?” - Maurice Strong, founder of the UN Environment Programme
  • Motella
    TAGLINE: News, Views and Politics of New Zealand's Motel Industry

Well, they’re new to me anyway.  And they look good.

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‘Trillion’ is the new billion [update 3]

Obamessiah Another week, another trillion dollars. 

The Obamessiah has been busy – but even in his busiest moment the country’s chequebook is never far from reach. Fresh from his overtures last week to Iran and Hezbollah early last week, then demonising his new scapegoats (in the form of the AIG bonus recipients), he moved on over the weekend to promise a trillion dollar golden shower last week.  All hail the Messiah.

Yes, the Sainted One  is going to fix America’s banking system with the balm of yet another trillion dollars to be bestowed on the American banking system, this time to bless the so called “toxic assets” – you know, the ones Henry Paulson promised to “fix.”  The new plan is that the Messiah will do what Paulson couldn’t by the benison of his mere touch, performing thereby the miracle of transforming them from “toxic” to “asset” by willpower alone –- with the assistance of one trillion dollars that you and your grandchildren will be paying off for some decades to come.

All hail the Great Leader!

Leaving aside for the moment the impossibility in this world of such miracles coming to pass in the desired manner, notice how quickly we’ve become inured to news of another trillion dollar spending spree.

A trillion has become the new billion – which is certainly what’s going to happen to the purchasing power of one billion dollars under the weight of all the new paper Ben ‘Helicopter’ Bernanke is pumping out at the Messiah’s behest.

A billion dollars is already a big number.  Says Bernard Darnton,

People don’t understand the word ‘billion.’ It sounds like ‘million,’ which means ‘quite a lot,’ and ‘billion’ also means ‘quite a lot’ – maybe a bit more. But the difference is vast. A million dollars is what you’d get earning the average wage for twenty years. A billion dollars is what you’d get if you won Lotto every week for twenty years.

And a trillion dollars is what you’d get if you won Lotto every week for twenty thousand years.

That’s a long time.  Almost as long as it will take to pay off Obama’s debt.

Let’s look at it another way.

Here’s one million dollars worth of one-hundred dollar bills:
million Here’s one billion:
billion  And here’s one trillion dollars:
trillion
Those pallets are double-stacked, to make it easier to see.  And that little dot in the bottom left corner?  No, that’s not a fly spot on your screen, that’s your man.  And by the way, the deficit in the Obamessiah’s big-spending budget – even before this latest announcement, was projected to be 9.3 of those double-stacked football-fields of cash over the next decade:
trilliontrillion  trillion
trilliontrillion  trilliontrilliontrillion  trillion

billion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillion billionbillionbillionbillion billionbillion

That’s not just a truckload of money.  It’s not even a warehouse-load. There is not a building or a fleet of trucks in the world that would hold that amount of cash.  Perhaps if you committed yourself to shovelling it all into the Grand Canyon, you’d find a big enough hole to store it all (and that, to be fair, would be a much better use for it).

This is a president who, in February – just days after announcing a $787 billion stimulus package --   signalled he would “pivot quickly” to address the exploding budget deficit, scheduling a "fiscal-responsibility summit" to “put pressure on politicians to address the country's surging long-term debt crisis.”  As Jeff Perren said at the time,

I'm beginning to wonder if Obama's Progressive pragmatism has led him to an actual psychotic break. Now, now he's worried about the Federal debt and the deficit? After pushing for the largest theft of future taxpayer wealth in history, only a little more than a third of which conceivably has anything to do with the economic crisis?

The “miracle” the Messiah is hoping for is still predicated on the failed Keynesian notion – one that has never worked anywhere – that throwing whole Grand Canyon-loads of money at the problem will fix it.  But here’s a question for Washington's Keynesians, asked by Jeff Jacoby:

If uninhibited deficit spending is the key to economic growth, how could the Bush administration's galloping budget increases and unbroken string of deficits have left the economy in recession? If Keynes was right, why didn't the enormous growth of government outlays stop the Great Depression in its tracks? Federal spending exploded under Herbert Hoover and exploded even more under Franklin Roosevelt, during whose first two terms the federal budget more than doubled. Where was the "stimulus" such furious expenditure should have produced?

The answer today’s Keynesians always give (people like alleged economists Paul Krugman and Brad de Long), is that the`avalanche of spending under previous regimes was not enough.  Not enough! The deficit spending under Roosevelt indebted two generations of Americans, and still failed to lift it out of the slump. But it wasn’t enough. The misnamed “stimulus” packages the Japanese tried in the nineties to rescue their own economy, producing deficits making it the most indebted country in the developed world, didn’t do the job either.  They too weren’t enough.  No stimulus, anywhere ever, has ever been enough in hindsight.  Which leads Tom Woods to ask in the latest Free Radical:

What would be enough, then?  A quadrillion dollars?  A googol dollars?  Infinity minus one dollars?  It’s be interesting to know what “stimulus” figure might make a Keynesian declare, “Now that’s too much!"

Anybody have an answer?  Before your great-great-great grandchildren have to pick up the tab too?

UPDATE:  Ed Cline takes on Obama’s rapid destruction of the once prosperous and productive United States: “As on the popular TV program, ABC’s ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,’ President Barack Obama is overseeing the demolition of the remnants of a republic that upheld individual rights and of the construction of a socialist “republic.“  Read it all here: Obama's “Extreme Makeover” of America.

UPDATE 2: As if to prove I haven’t got what it takes to be US Treasury Secretary (but how has, apart from maybe Bernie Madoff), I had to amend the pictures of that Grand Canyon-load of dosh above.  Silly me, I’d confused a billion for a hundred-billion.  Easy mistake to make, what?

UPDATE 3: Dinther reckons that the area covered by those $100 bills is 10000 square kilometers!  He’s made a Google Earth model that you can view in Google Earth.  Keep zooming in until you see the dollar bills (which is bound to be a metaphor for something extravagant.).

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